View Full Version : Her Grandfather's Bride (A Grimm-styled fable)

05-28-2010, 07:06 PM
This fable came during an hour of sickness and delirium. Once I was well enough to sit up and type, I wrote this out all at once. It needs revising, but I'm not ready to do that yet. This is the first completed story I've written in years (certainly the first fable I've ever tried), I hope it's well received. Any critique and comments would be greatly appreciated!


Once there was a young girl who lived with her Grandfather in a little cottage on the edge of a village. The girl’s parents had died when she was very young, and she didn’t remember them – her grandfather was her whole world, and they loved each other very much.

Her Grandfather made cuckoo clocks, and had done so all his life – tiny clocks that were only a little bigger than a silver coin, giant clocks that were only a little smaller than the doorway, clocks that housed finches, clocks that housed eagles. Every home in the village had one of his clocks (some of the richer families had two), and many people from neighbouring villages (and even neighbouring countries) visited his workshop for their own clock.

Whilst the Grandfather made his clocks, the Girl kept the house for him. She cooked meals for them both, washed the sheets, and swept the floor. When visitors came on good days, she’d say, “My grandfather is in his workshop; let me take you to him.” If the grandfather was tired, or not feeling well, she’d tell them, “My grandfather is not working today, come another time.” She was so efficient at organising his business that the villagers jokingly said that she was her Grandfather’s Bride. But she didn’t mind, because she knew she’d be lost without him, and he without her.

One day, the Prince came riding through the village, looking for a gift for his mother. The villagers all directed him to the Grandfather’s workshop, saying that he could do no better than to buy her one of the famed cuckoo-clocks. He rode to the cottage, and spied the Girl carrying firewood for the stove.

“You there!” He called. “I wish to see the cuckoo-clock maker whose clocks are known throughout the land. Am I right to assume this is his residence?”

“You would be, Your Majesty.” The Girl replied politely, curtseying slightly. “But my Grandfather is unwell, and is not in his workshop today. If you wish to buy a clock, you’ll have to come back another time.”

“I am the Prince, and I wait for no-one!” The Prince bellowed. “I wish to see him now, so inform him that he is to be in his workshop this instant, or I shall be grievously angered!”

However, the Girl was not cowed. “Be that as it may,” she retorted, “but my Grandfather does not respond well to threats or anger, and for that matter, neither do I. We will happily provide you with a clock finer than anything in this world, but you will get nothing today. You must come back again another time.”

Rather than explode with rage, the Prince was impressed by the Girls response. “She is not afraid to stand her ground.” He thought to himself. “Yet she is gracious and polite, even when vexed. Not to mention she is very pleasant to look at, and obviously hardworking. These are all admirable qualities in a wife.”

“Very well.” The Prince said aloud. “I will come back tomorrow.” And he rode back to his castle.

When he heard of the Prince’s arrival, the Grandfather immediately roused himself from his bed, and shuffled into his workshop. He looked at all his existing creations, and said, “Bah! None of these will do for royalty, and surely not someone as fussy as the Prince. I will have to make a new clock all together, one finer than any I have made before.” And he set to work, though his muscles were weak, and his lungs were exhausted.

The next day, the Prince returned. “I wish to see the clock-maker.” He declared.

“He is very busy and cannot be seen.” The Girl called out from the kitchen as she made bread. “Come again another time.” But she gave the Prince a piece of bread, as he had ridden all the way out for nothing.

The next day, the Grandfather was still working busily on the clock, and the Prince returned again, demanding to see the clock-maker. “He is very busy and cannot be seen.” Said the Girl as she washed the bed sheets. “Come again another time.” But she gave the prince a damp cloth to wipe his brow, for the day was hot.

So it continued every day for a week, until finally, the Prince rode up to find not only the clock-maker, but his clock waiting for him in front of the cottage. It was made from the finest maple wood, the clock face was of marble, and the dove that was housed within it cooed most beautifully on the hour. It was without a doubt the finest clock the Grandfather had ever made. The Prince did not even look at the other clocks in the workshop – he paid a sackful of gold to the Grandfather, and rode away with his clock.

However, the next day he returned. The Girl was raking up leaves and asked, “Why have you returned? Surely the clock is not faulty.”

“Not at all.” The Prince replied. “But I have chosen you to be my bride. I will come back for you in a week’s time, and you will live with me in the Castle.”

Refusing to let the Prince see her Grandfather was one thing, but to refuse a wedding proposal was entirely out of the question. The Girl knew she could not refuse. Later that night, when she told her Grandfather of the news, he stood up from the table, and locked himself in his workshop. He refused to neither speak nor come out for the entire week, no matter how the Girl pleaded and cursed.

Finally, on the day she was to leave, she knocked softly at the door. “Please Grandfather, I am leaving today, and I may never return. Please open your door to me.”

She expected no response, yet he opened the door, looking frailer than ever. “I have finished your wedding present.” He said softly. Behind him on the workbench was a clock finer and more beautiful than even the one he had made for the Prince. It was as wide and as tall as a man’s outstretched arms, made from the finest mahogany wood the Grandfather possessed. The Girl was so overwhelmed with emotion, she could not speak, and as she hugged her Grandfather for the last time, she knew her heart was breaking.

The wedding feast went on for three days, yet the Girl remembered scarcely any of it. Now that she was Princess, nothing was required of her. No one needed her to cook, nor to collect firewood, nor to clean the bed sheets. She had difficulty sleeping. More often than not, she would bolt awake, wondering, “Who will sweet up the cottage for Grandfather whilst he works?” During the dinner feasts, she would lift a spoon to hear mouth, then lower it, wondering, “Who will send visitors away when Grandfather is too tired to work?”

She only felt a semblance of peace when she sat on her throne beside her wedding present clock. It was so large, it had to be hung by five men on the wall beside the twin thrones, and its ticking was soothing to the Girl. No bird appeared to be housed within it, so it was silent throughout the hours, and its little doors remained shut. But the Girl didn’t mind, and the Prince chose not to bring it up.

One day, the Girl woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, feeling as though her heart was being torn from her chest. She cried out in pain, and sobbed viciously into her blankets, cursing herself for abandoning her poor frail Grandfather. She left her bedchamber, and without telling anyone, she took a horse from the stable, and rode out of the castle grounds. She rode through the forest, into the village, and as she approached the cottage, her heart leapt with joy.

“Grandfather!” She cried out as she burst into his workshop. “Grandfather, I’m here! I’ve returned, and I will never leave again, not even if the Prince attempts to drag me back with wild horses! My place is here with you, and I will never leave again!”

Alas, her Grandfather was not in his workshop. Nor was he in his bed, nor anywhere in the cottage. With a horrible pain gnawing at her stomach, she realised that her Grandfather was not there at all.

She returned to the workshop, where all his clocks remained on the walls, ticking and gathering dust. The Girl was shaking with anguish, finally collapsing onto his workbench, sobbing harder than she had ever sobbed before.

Without warning, a sparrow burst from the clock nearest to her, nearly jabbing her face as it shot out. “Stupid girl!” It shrilled. “What reason have you to cry? You abandoned your Grandfather, and now you live in a Castle with your Prince and all you could ever wish for!”

“But I wish for nothing more than my Grandfather!” The Girl replied. “Where is he now?”

“He is gone, and no surprise.” The sparrow said bitterly. “How could he live, after you took his heart away with you?”

“I did no such thing!” The Girl cried out in horror. “I took nothing from him, nothing except…”

Her wedding present. Her heart leapt to her throat.

She dashed back to the horse that waited for her outside, and galloped back to the Castle as fast as she could. It was only breaking dawn, and the Castle was still and silent. She crept into the throne room, and approached the enormous clock. Takind a deep breath, she carefully opened the tiny doors on the front. There, nestled right in the place where the bird was supposed to live, was her Grandfather’s heart, glowing brighter than the sun.

“Oh, Grandfather,” she gasped, “how wicked I was to leave you. But how blessed I was to have a Grandfather who would never leave me. I have wanted nothing more in this life than to be with you always.”

And without another word, she lifted the top panel off the roof of the clock, and crawled inside.

The Prince never saw his bride again, no matter how he searched the castle, and later the village for her. He eventually remarried, but he never removed the clock from beside the thrones.

05-28-2010, 09:47 PM
Oh my. That is delightful and wicked. I love Grimm-style fairy tales, always a shadow hiding in some corner of the story....You did this very well! I would definitely read something like this :D

Ever consider writing anything longer?

05-28-2010, 10:01 PM
Oh, you have no idea. I actually have one story in the works, but I'm letting that one mature slowly. I used to write all the time - now I want to start small and work my way up to more sustained pieces, instead of having folders full of endless ramblings that have no direction and no ending. :)

I'm very glad you like it! *huggles the Blessed First Comment Giver*

05-30-2010, 11:47 AM
I really enjoyed reading your fable, ShelfLife. It was quite touching as for such a short story. I mean, your writing style is very engaging. Looking forward to your next story :)